The Waiting Room

The surgery went “as well as could be expected” after two months of undiagnosed illness, but Sepsis is taking over his body, threatening his survival. The next two hours are critical.

His loved ones and friends are gathered in the ICU Waiting Room at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

Several hours earlier, I had observed six Muslim men praying the evening prayer at sundown at the far side of the Waiting Room. Oromo (Ethiopia) men had prayed the evening prayers at sundown, off to the far side of the large Waiting Room.

The men from Orono (Ethiopia), whom I had assumed to be Somali, are now gathered in chairs in the center of the Waiting Room, talking among themselves in Oromo.

When I approach them, intruding into their space, they recognize my presence. They stop talking. “Salaam,” I say. “Salaam,” they respond as if with a single voice and smile. “My friend is very sick. The next two hours are critical. I ask your prayers. His name is Phil.”

They respond as one would expect compassionate people to respond. “We will pray for him.”

I return to the small family area where my fellow Christians are gathered. I tell them the Muslims are praying for Phil. They’re pleased. We chat. Phil and Faith’s pastor eventually leads us in a Christian prayer.

Muslim prayer visitors

Muslim prayer visitors

An hour or so later three of the Oromo men come to our little room. They have come to tell us they have finished their prayers for Phil.

The voices and eyes of the men, led by their Imam, are kind, pastoral, as we say in the church. Full of compassion and concern for us. They have prayed in Arabic a Muslim prayer for healing on behalf of a stranger about whom they know nothing but his need:

“Remove the harm, O Lord of humankind and heal [Phil], for You are the Healer and there is no healing except Your healing, with a healing which does not leave any disease behind.” [narrated into English by al-Bukhaar]

Sometimes we have no choice but to wait. The Muslims from Oromo are waiting with us actively. Would that we all would wait so kindly, so patiently, so actively, and so wisely.

For a split second, I imagine the world as a Waiting Room.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Abbott-Northwester Hospital, Minneapolis, MN, June 12, 2015

6 thoughts on “The Waiting Room

  1. Having been in the ICU at Abbott Northwestern with sepsis in May 2015, I only hope the oromo was praying for me, also. It is a beautiful thought. I had many prayers and many friends and relatives and pastors who were very involved with me and my care and recovery.
    I am slowly but surely recovering. I am beginning to think that I will always be tired. I hope that the person you were visiting has made a good recovery, as well.
    Thanks for sharing your experience in your blog.


    • Lois, I don’t believe we’ve met except through this comment, so it’s good to “meet” you here. I’m always curious how people happen to come by. Were you searching for sepsis? Abbott Northwestern, or something else? I hope and pray you continue to recover and regain your energy. My friend Phil wasn’t so fortunate. The sepsis came into play during surgery to remove his lymphoma-filled spleen. He survived the sepsis but never made it out of Surgical ICU. He died 11 days later. The surgeons and SICU doctors said there have been only 12 reported cases of lymphoma contained in the spleen. The SICU physician described it as “a perfect sh-t storm.”


      • Hi Gordon,
        Thanks for your reply. I am sorry to learn of the loss of your friend Phil.
        You are right, we have never met in person; however, I am so very glad to meet you on your blog.
        You are correct. My search was for “Sepsis, Abbott Northwestern.” I am an activist and tend to get involved in causes. I would like to do something for Sepsis awareness through the Sepsis Alliance, eg a fund raiser. I have been unable to see if there are others who are involved in the Twin Cities. I was hoping to harvest the names of certain physicians who are involved. I do not want to re-invent the wheel. I would rather join with others who are already involved.
        My sepsis came after I had a perforated bowel and surgery. I was beginning to improve slightly when my lung was punctured while the hospital staff was putting in a central line. I was rushed into surgery in the Heart Hospital to remove two liters of fluid from around my heart and lung. During that time, I had two strokes. If I was critical before, now I was really critical. I was fortunate that in that I have no impairments from the strokes.
        I went to the hospital by ambulance the night of May 5 and had surgery early in the morning of May 6. The second surgery was May 12 and another small surgery to help me breathe better on May 13. I don’t remember much of anything until May 17, after which I began to improve. By May 23 I left Abbott for Regency Acute Care Hospital where I began my rehabilitation.
        I am a Presbyterian (Oak Grove) and I am sure our paths have crossed but we have never met. It took me a while to figure out who your friend Phil was but I read enough of your other blogs to do so. When I returned to church, I was greeted by both Bill Chadwick and Beth Hart-Andersen saying, “I never expected to see you in church again.” I fooled them. I’m a stubborn Swede – tenacious and determined.
        I really like the quote from William Sloan Coffin after he had his stroke. I agree very much with what he said and I am VERY thankful – again and again – for so many things.

        I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

        Lois James


        • Lois, thank you for sharing your story here. Oak Grove is a wonderful progressive church and you are in the right pew! I just re-blogged a piece by John Buchanan, retired from Fourth Presbyterian Church-Chicago and The Christian Century. I think you’ll “like” it! All the best with your health and search for colleagues in sepsis advocacy.


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